Category: Church

The League of Church Members Extraordinary, Part 1



By Joe McKeever, Preacher, Cartoonist, Pastor, and retired Director of Missions at the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.

This is the first in a series on finding people within the congregation who can meet extraordinary needs in the life of the church.


Yesterday, as the receptionist at the medical specialty clinic checked my wife in for a procedure, she handed me a small lighted gadget. “When it goes off,” she said, “they’re through in the back and will be coming to get you.”

We’re all familiar with these things. What are they called–buzzers? They fit in the palm of your hand, they’re operated by batteries, and restaurants use them for patrons awaiting tables. When they go off, lights flash, the buzzer sounds, and the thing vibrates.

Pretty handy.

Perhaps this is what the Holy Spirit does when alerting believers to opportunities for ministry, something important to note, a critical moment that has arrived. Lights, buzz, vibrate.

Pagers. That’s what they are called, my daughter-in-law informs me. It brings to mind former days when bellhops would roam hotel lobbies with notes on silver trays, calling out, “Paging Doctor Smith,” or whoever. Rumor held that some insecure individuals actually arranged to have themselves paged that way in order to alert others in the lobby to their presence.

Is there a Bible verse that promises the Holy Spirit will alert us–page us–to opportunities, needs, moments? I’m still searching for that.

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Preaching Preparation for the Real World Pastor:
Principle #7: Know the Right Story to Bring the Truth Home
Relevant Stories

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Preaching Preparation for the Real World Pastor:
Principle #7: Know the Right Story to Bring the Truth Home
Relevant Stories


By Dr. Thomas Douglas, Pastor, Parkway Baptist Church, Kansas City, KS

This is the eighth in a series of articles on sermon preparation for pastors and bivocational pastors with busy schedules. To see the earlier articles, click the links below:

Introduction article,
Principle #1: Bible Literacy,
Principle #2: Know What You Believe,
Principle #3: Know Your Audience—Exegeting Your People,
Principle #4: Know Who You Trust—Trusted Sources,
Principle #5: Know Your Text—You and the Scripture

Principle #6: Know What You Want People to Do—Application Points


“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” “Once upon a time in a land far, far away . . .” “In the first church I served in a town far, far away . . .” Sometimes the stories in preachers’ sermons sound like a mix between science fiction and fairy tales. There may be an element of truth in there somewhere along the way, but it’s lost in the embellishment to make a point a great point. The desire to make a good story better arises within a preacher because he knows the benefits of a good illustration. Austin Tucker gives six reasons why stories have great appeal for listeners: (1) a story grabs our attention and holds it; (2) stories stick in the memory; (3) stories have persuasive power; (4) stories clarify the truth; (5) narrative adds aesthetic value to a sermon, and (6) we see ourselves in stories.[1] This article suggests some cautions of abusing illustrations and provides some tips for utilizing them to make your preaching more effective and persuasive.

While stories add to the sermon, preachers must beware of some pitfalls in abusing illustrations.

Pitfall 1: Obvious inauthentic stories as found in fairy tales might get an “Amen!” but also might not relate to the lives of the hearers. Try to use authentic (or at least realistic sounding) stories that include life’s struggles, defeats, and victories through the grace of God.

Pitfall 2: Using a good story because it’s good not because it clarifies your point. Maybe you heard it at an evangelism conference or read it in a book and it moved you. Next thing you know, the next Sunday your people hear it tacked on to your sermon as a conclusion. Avoid that temptation and save it until it fits. It will be even more powerful when it solidifies your message.

Pitfall 3: You can have too much of a good thing. Some preachers illustrate every sub-point or every word in a passage. In a 35 minute sermon, if you have three main points and an introduction and conclusion and try to put a story at each point, there’s little time left for exposition and application. Beyond the introduction and perhaps the conclusion, a good rule is to only illustrate what needs to be clarified. Especially beware of this if you’re preaching a biblical narrative. Adding too many side stories interrupts the flow of the biblical story.

Pitfall 4: Being a bad story teller can ruin a great illustration. Some preachers give too much information. Others leave out too much. Practice helps strike a balance. You want the people with you when you get to the end of the story.

Pitfall 5: Allowing the story to swallow up the point you’re making. Have you ever gotten so entranced listening to a story that a little part of you was saddened when it ended? If your listeners can remember the story but not why you told it, the story failed in its most important purpose. Your story should help listeners remember your point, not forget it.

Having briefly discussed pitfalls, here are some tips for discovering and utilizing illustrations in your preaching.

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A Church Where Everyone Knows My Name



Recently State Farm Insurance has been running ads on TV showing people calling the insurance company after problems like a car crash or robbery befalls them. In each case, they seem pleased with the personal service they receive. There are virtually no words through the ad except playing “Where Everyone Knows Your Name,” the theme song from the old sitcom “Cheers.”

Remember that old TV show “Cheers”? It was a sitcom about a Boston bar named Cheers, starring actors like Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, and George Wendt. When “regulars” like Norm Peterson came into the bar, everyone would cry out “Norm!” in celebration of his arrival. After a long day of work, Norm (whose relationship with his wife Vera was sometimes rocky) knew that there was one place he could go where everyone knew his name and he would be accepted – the Cheers bar. Even the socially awkward and occasionally self-delusional postal worker Cliff Clavin, who desperately needed acceptance because he found it difficult to fit in anywhere else, found a measure of acceptance at Cheers.

The show’s theme song, “Where Everyone Knows Your Name,” began with these words:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.

 

Is that how people feel when they attend your church? Do people interact with them personally? Do we get to know their names? Are they glad they came to our church? How tragic it would be if persons felt more accepted in a bar than in a church! The church of Jesus Christ ought to be the most welcoming place in the world. I served as pastor of a church plant that did not have some of the bells and whistles of larger churches. We sometimes lost members to those larger churches because we didn’t have the huge choir and orchestra, the fulltime youth ministry, the day care center, and all those other extras. But sometimes after being there a year or two, when they went to a Wednesday night supper and still nobody knew their name, they drifted back to our church for the personal touch that our smaller fellowship offered.

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The Importance of a Church Staff
#5 – 10 Questions about Church Staffs

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The Importance of a Church Staff
#5 – 10 Questions about Church Staffs




By Joe McKeever, Preacher, Cartoonist, Pastor, and retired Director of Missions at the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.

 

This is part five of a multi-article series by Dr. McKeever on how to go about seeking and calling a church staff more effectively. Part one is The Pastor Assembles a Staff: Scary. Part two is The Most Important Person in Your Office. Part three is Church Staffs: Rules to Live By. Part four is The Bi-Vocational Pastor Assembles His Staff.


(This should be the final entry in this little series of postings regarding church staff teams. For a pastor to bring in associate ministers to his church can be a wonderful boost to his work, a blessing to the congregation, and a lift to the associate’s career. But it’s also scary, a real faith venture which can and sometimes does go badly. Here are a few considerations on the subject.)

1. The pastor and congregation of a small church agree it’s time to add a staff member, their first. How should they go about it?

Very deliberately. Cautiously, prayerfully, intelligently.

The most common error I’ve seen pastors in this situation make is to bring in a buddy, who they have known through the years, who is presently without a church. On the surface, it looks like a gift from Heaven, a situation handed them from on high.

Maybe so. More likely not.

Pastor, it’s one thing to be friends with that colleague through the years. But when you become his supervisor, the relationship changes. Be careful here.

I suggest to the pastor of a small congregation about to bring in a new staff member that he do the following:

a) Put together a small team of mature church members to assist him. They are not “the” search committee, although they and you work as a team. You will need their counsel, their wisdom, their judgment, and the new minister will need their support. (It’s best if they do not select a chairman; you are their leader.)

b) Be very clear as to what you want the new staffer to do. If it’s to work with the youth or administer an educational program or develop a senior adult ministry, spell it out.

c) Have an understanding with your committee that all must be on board with a recommendation before it goes to the church. Prepare them for the possibility of everyone except you agreeing on someone, or you wanting a candidate who they do not accept. Make sure they are able and prepared to deal with that. Immature members will quickly lose patience with a pastor who seems hard to please or who does not accept their choice.

d) Call other pastors and get their help. They know people you don’t.

e) Once you find a likely candidate, do not fall in love with him/her too quickly. Caution your committee about this, too. Take your time to get to know him, to run plenty of references, to thoroughly check into his past.

After all, this being the church’s first venture into staff members, you want the experience to be a good one.

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Preaching Preparation for the Real World Pastor:
Principle #6: Know What You Want People to Do
Application Points

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Preaching Preparation for the Real World Pastor:
Principle #6: Know What You Want People to Do
Application Points


By Dr. Thomas Douglas, Pastor, Parkway Baptist Church, Kansas City, KS

This is the seventh in a series of articles on sermon preparation for pastors and bivocational pastors with busy schedules. To see the earlier articles, click the links below:

Introduction article,
Principle #1: Bible Literacy,
Principle #2: Know What You Believe,
Principle #3: Know Your Audience—Exegeting Your People,
Principle #4: Know Who You Trust—Trusted Sources, and
Principle #5: Know Your Text—You and the Scripture


Sermon outlines give the structure and flow to a sermon. Without the outline, preachers can make excellent comments about the passage and wonderful points, but listeners will struggle to remember anything, save a good story, because there’s nothing to organize what is said in the mind of the hearer. The sermon outline has two important functions: (1) it lets you know where to go next and (2) it allows the people to connect the dots from the introduction to the conclusion. The key questions you need to ask in identifying a good outline are: Does the outline reflect the thought of the biblical author? Does the outline communicate the biblical truth to your immediate audience? Does the outline have flow and progression, leading the listeners to your conclusion? and Do the main points of the outline directly call your listeners to respond to the message. If you have connected with your exegetical commentary, you have a good handle on the main points of the passage along with the progression of the author’s thought. So, this article will deal with the last question – directly calling your listeners to action in your main points.

As with any preacher my preaching has changed over my fifteen years in ministry. In college, I made the commitment to preach expository sermons and during my M.Div. I learned three important components for my sermons: explanation, illustration, and application. Based on my undergraduate background in Greek and my fifth grade teacher’s, Mr. Haas, teaching of diagramming sentences, I went to work identifying the main points of the author and subordinating his subordinating clauses. No matter the genre or text, I applied the same three components in the same order: explain the meaning of the passage in my main points, clarify the truths of the passage with illustrations, and finally apply the point to the hearers before moving on to my next main point. This method has been faithfully taught to future expositors for years and for good reason. It gives priority to the exposition of the text while still clarifying and applying the truths of God’s Word to today.

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